Release Date: Jun 17, 2013
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
New Englander Mark Mulcahy is one of pop's intriguing footnotes, sustaining a near-30-year career without ever really entering the wider public consciousness. His status among his peers, though, can be measured from the fact that Thom Yorke, the National, Frank Black and Michael Stipe were among those who appeared on a tribute album to him in 2009. His first record since 2005 is familiar fare, musically: acoustic guitars strum, electrics jangle, the melodies stick.
Some artists are household names; others manage to sneak their music into our homes. Mark Mulcahy (with or without the J.) once fell into that latter camp. Little could our Nickelodeon-reliant parents have known that a “babysitter” like The Adventures of Pete & Pete was doing more than giving them a 30-minute parenting break; the show was subliminally populating our eyes and ears with musicians and sounds that would soundtrack our adolescences and follow us into adulthood.
Considering the death of his wife in 2008 and his subsequent focus on his family in favor of public work, it would be understandable if Mark Mulcahy’s first full album in close to a decade was a somber one. Any album that ends with “Where’s the Indifference Now”, portraying a suicide, unanswered questions and grieving survivors, would seem to fit that bill. But then, part of what makes Dear Mark J.
Cult songwriters don’t come more revered and obscure than Mark Mulcahy. His name isn’t a household one, unless your house is the type where names like Nick Hornby, Michael Stipe, Matt Berninger, Black Francis and Thom Yorke are regularly bandied about, for all of those artists have been outspoken in their praise of Mulcahy. With Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, the American troubadour’s fourth solo LP and first since 2005, it’s easy to see (or hear, rather) why Mulcahy is so lauded by his better known peers.
Mark Mulcahy seems to have propelled out of another age, one of ’70s country rock, though with an indier, but equally earnest, twist. Following the lead of other new releases such as Treetop Flyers‘ The Mountain Moves, the driving influence of Americana can be heard on tracks such as Let The Fireflies Fly Away and He’s A Magnet with a relatively straightforward driving groove. This sense of simplicity is not to undermine Mulcahy’s work however, but goes to enable, and ultimately enhance, his painting of the Great American Landscape.
Death hangs everywhere in Mark J. Mulcahy's music. The Connecticut singer-songwriter lost his wife in 2008, and on "Where's the Difference Now," from his first album since that tragedy, he grieves over a suicide ("why would someone do such a thing without explaining?"). But Dear Mark J. Mulcahy ….
Eight years have passed since the last release by Mark Mulcahy, but the interest in his unique songwriting perspective doesn’t seem to have waned. At least not if you can judge by the slew of big names, including Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe and The National, that gathered to record his songs on a 2009 benefit album intended to help Mulcahy and his kids after the death of his wife. You can see why those heavyweight yet inconoclastic artists would take to Mulcahy’s music by listening to his long-awaited new album, Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You.
Ever since I first heard Mark Mulcahy’s new record, I’ve been walking around the house singing a line that goes, “Nothing matters what I say / But I’d rather burn this bouquet than give it away. ” This is not a line from the new record (I am only just beginning to commit those to memory), but one from a song called “Sea Hag” off of Miracle Legion’s Drenched (1992)—a record I bought six years ago but which continues to rattle around in my brain, words and phrases stringing together like magnetic poetry. It’s just one of many great lines from the substantial oeuvre of that band’s singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy, and one of many that I’ve been unable to forget.
Life hasn’t been easy for Mark Mulcahy since the release of his last long-player, 2005’s still enduring In Pursuit Of Your Happiness, particularly with the death of his wife leaving him as a single parent to young twins. Mercifully though, Mulcahy has found a way to gradually return to active duty, in part thanks to the financial and moral support bestowed by 2009’s Ciao My Shining Star tribute compilation (which featured some choice Mulcahy songbook covers from the likes of Thom Yorke and The National). Hence, late last year saw the release of the sublime standalone Low Birthweight Child 7” single on Tonguemaster and a low-key UK tour to gently reacquaint Mulcahy with his loyal following.